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Top Chef-is anyone else upset about how they are sending home contestants?!?!

This year, in the first couple episodes, almost proved a step in the right direction: Thoughtful eliminations based on cuisine quality and talent. But now it has gone awry!! Why is Lia not still in the game? They sent home an extremely talented chef. Why is Howie still on the show?? No talent at all. Is this all for ratings?? It is sad to say, but nothing has even come close to outshining season one.

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  1. Each episode's judging (according to Colicchio) is based solely on that Elimination Challenge. When Lia got sent home she just didn't cook a Latin-enough dish for the judges. This Wikipedia chart was linked in another TC post: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef... - Howie has had two wins (despite having been in the bottom FIVE times). But I suspect he's going to be out pretty soon.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LindaWhit

      I hear what you're saying...it's along the line of 'why did Ilan win last year?' IMO, Sam or Elia should've won. Ilan, I'm sure, is a good cook, however at a recent lunch at Casa Mono in NYC - one of the waitresses mentioned that he won by using all of Andy Nusser's recipes. (And if you've seen the menu, you'll know what I'm talking about).

      In regards to this year, I'm having a hard time guaging who will be Top Chef. I thought Lia was very talented as well and was sad to see her go so early.

    2. The winner is whoever the judge's decide its going to be, its not the best chef, its not the most poised chef, its whatever the judges feel like on that day at that time. It doesn't mean the best chef and the most poised chef won't win, but there is very little correlation.

      The deal is that there are no objective thresholds that these judges are making their judgment. They are given pretty amorphous marching orders and their personal interpretations of what a top chef should be. They say that it is what the chef does in elimination challenge, but there are no requirements, Howie didn't even finish a dish, and they didn't get rid of him. They justified it by extrapolating that his dish would have been great if he had time to finish and they invoked the old : "well, we know he's a better chef than this..". But they didn't do it for Lia.

      I am not going to say that there is an outright conspiracy, but the judges are human and they are affected by different elements and their dealings with the cheftestants definitely affect their judging. Add on top of that the amount of time they spend filming this thing, I wouldn't be surprised if they went with the majority most of the time just to get out of the filming. These people aren't going to be pulling the Twelve Angry Men routine for a reality show.

      But, the cheftestants knew this coming in so I am not very upset by all this. They knew what they were getting into and they are reaping the publicity that I assume was their main motivation in the first place.

      1. "... I was absolutely heartbroken to send [Lia] home this early in the competition. Sadly, her Smoked Rainbow Trout with Poblano Charred Corn Polenta Cake gave us no choice. It was mushy and void of much texture, under seasoned and most importantly, did not embody the essence of Latin American food."


        "Howie, who is always the first to admit that his weakness lies in not being able to budget his time properly, managed to rise to the occasion and steal the show! The result of his hard work was a Braised Pork Shoulder with Yuca and Sour Orange Mojo that everyone adored. It had just the right balance of spicy, zesty and tender meat, which was blended with a refreshing citrus and sweet onion crunch, and starchy, soothing yucca root. This dish was the clear winner for us all. To me, it represented how great Latin food can be, with its simplicity of presentation and vibrant depth of flavor."


        1. I think the show is mostly dictated on the idea of ratings and face time. There is no way Ilan should have won. And this year many of them are still in because of the drama. Drama usually keeps you on one of these shows. That's why Howie and the rest of them stay on...

          Plus Padma really should stay quiet. When Tom and the rest of the judges make comments, hers are usually silly and without much weight.

          I enjoy the show but everyone has to realize it is just entertainment. Fine chefs may not be enough sizzle for reality TV.

          1. I agree. I think they've made some terrible choices. Howie has screwed up every single team challenge and made a thick RIOSOTTO in Miami in April. I would love to see him go home, immediately.

            1. Of course it's for the ratings. At the end credits, there's the standard disclaimer that the producers were involved in the elimination decision. I bet Howie has survived as long as he has because he generates a lot of controversy and friction. If he were just a nice guy, he'd have been gone a long time ago, because his performance has been bottom-of-the-barrel more than once.

              16 Replies
              1. re: ricepad

                Aw, I like Howie! Why do many-Howie haters in here? I think he's a decent chef, from what a television can show me, which is close to nothing. But still, he speaks his mind, he's tough and no nonsense-like the real deal. And I wouldn't worry about Lia, remember-she's a chef at JG. Vongo's got her back.

                1. re: DesperateChefsWives

                  I like Howie, too, but he does have a real problem with listening to other people. More than once they've shown him talking over teammates as they try and offer ideas.
                  I was surprised Sara N lasted as long as she did. She seemed weak and slow from the start.

                2. re: ricepad

                  Colicchio has said in his blog that the producers haven't interfered, that if they had there was no way Sam would have been sent home before the end. The few more or less baffling decisions have always been explained clearly in the blogs.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    The question is: are they clear explanations or are they CYA's? I think there is an amount of self serving rationalizing there.

                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      I don't see that.

                      The one thing the blogs never addressed was the out-of-sequence editing of the head-shaving, but that had nothing to do with the judges.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        The out os sequence editing also applies to the judges too. The way I see it, it is what it is. I don't expect perfect judgement and we are not getting perfect judgement. This thread is just for bitching about the unfairness of the judging. There can't ever be perfect judging especially with the ambiguity allowed under "the rules".

                        The blogs are in a way great looks behind the curtains at what goes on and to get other people's perspective on what we see, but it is also a way for the judges who blog to cover themselves since they went through this a while ago and now they get to do a bit of revisionist history in coordination with Bravo's editing. The beauty part fo rthem is that no one can know the reality because that is all unreleased footage and probably incredibly boring, so they have a means to do what ever they want to with other people's perception.

                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          I don't see anything suspicious. If you pay close attention to the details of each elimination I think their choices have all made sense. Once in a while on a close call the blogs help by providing more detailed criticism of the crucial dishes.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            My point is we don't see the unpublished footage so we can't really say. Remember, they can edit the thing to look like what ever they want so they could do what they want. This kind of stuff happens on reality shows all the time. Road Rules and The Real World was masterful at this years ago so I am sure the edit isn't that new of a concept to the producers.

                            Besides, you and I are doing exactly what Bravo want people to do, argue and discuss and basically care about the show, so whether they contrive the discussions or not is not their goal, they just want ratings. And if they try to dress up the judge's decisons to disguise inconsistencies, there is nothing we can do about it.

                            1. re: Phaedrus

                              I don't see any inconsistency between what I see on camera and what I see in the judges' blogs. I don't think the judges are lying in their blogs.

                              I don't watch the show to discuss it, I just like the game. The changes they've made this season strongly suggest that Bravo and the producers recognized that the show's fans are more into the competition and less into the reality-show soap opera nonsense.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                We are on the same page on everything except for one thing.

                                You trust that what they are showing us the distilled truth. I think they are showing us what they want us to see which may or may not be the truth. i am not saying that your judgement is bad or that the footage is consistent. What I AM saying is that they can easily edit the foottage and the blogs to reflect the company line. PR is more important than the truth, which is what this is all about, an illusion of whatever they want us to believe.

                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                  I wouldn't call the show "distilled truth." The editing's often too sloppy for that.

                                  Tom Colicchio doesn't seem very guarded about his comments. E.g.:

                                  “Mikey,” says Colicchio. “In the beginning, I was complaining, ‘What is this guy doing here?’ And the producers were saying, ‘Yeah, but wouldn’t it be great if he really could cook?’ And I’d say, ‘Yeah, it would be great. But he can’t.’ ”


                                  “I think the problem Bravo has,” says Colicchio, “is that they lose credibility when Jay [McCarroll, season one winner of Project Runway] doesn’t do anything.”


                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    What else has Colicchio said? Do you know? Have you seen the thousands of hours of tape to get everything he has said or done? Have you seen all the footage of the same situation at once? or were you there? Unless you have done that you don't know the truth. And I for one am glad that I don't have to do that, so I am confortable with the fact that the judgement is the way it is whether I believe it or not. The bottom line is that you have to have faith in the producers, the editors, and Bravo having the integrity to present the absolute truth, I don't have that faith, you do.

                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                      The producers and Bravo demonstrated in the first two seasons that they're interested in the truth only insofar as it helps them get better ratings.

                                      I think they've learned that Top Chef fans want a fair fight. In season three they're being much stricter about the rules and avoiding situations where they might have to disqualify contestants for reasons other than making the worst food in an elimination challenge.

                                      One doesn't need complete information to make an informed judgment. John C. Harsanyi won the Nobel Prize for economics for demonstrating that mathematically.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        How do you know that they are on the up and up the first two season? How have they demonstrated they are sincere? Especially with the second season.

                                        I agree you don't need perfect information to make decisions, and by the way, economics is not an area that is particularly concerned with perfect information in the first place. The basis of economics is making the best of imperfect information and coming to a decision.

                                        The quality of the decision is dependent on how many degrees of freedom or vectors of information are eliminated. The more data you have the more complex the analysis becomes but the more realistic the decision, but the less data the more information is lost therefore the less certainty you have in your conclusions. We not only have incomplete information, but we also don't know how little information we have. Somewhere along that continuum of information and certainty of decision, the lack of information will adversely affect the quality of the decision.

                                        Interpolation of data is what I do on a daily basis, but if we are undersampling, i.e. have a lack of information, I know my reconstruction of the original signal is somewhat dubious, but we can't do much about it outside of what we are doing, making assumptions and making dodgy guesses.

                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Not true.

                              When Sara was sent home she complained about having to cook in high heels. The judges talked about her having a bad attitude because of her shoes. They made that the focus of her unhappiness which was the at root of her elimination. Yet there is a brief shot of her cooking the what appear to be proper kitchen footwear clearly they are not her high heels. So why was that fact that she, and presumably other, were given safe and proper shoes? Why at the end did they still focus and talk about her as if she had to cook in high heels?


                              1. re: Withnail42

                                They probably taped Sara's talking-head complaint about the heels before the cooking started, and the producers were happy to give a false impression. She did have to cook in a low-cut blouse:


                                All irrelevant bullshit, since Sara's main problem was that her team, thanks largely to her incompetent leadership, wasn't putting out the food anywhere near fast enough and what they did get out was inconsistent.

                  2. The problem I have is the inconsistency. In previous years, they looked at the body of work and leadership, not just the one day's cooking. This year, it is all about one day. Before, they said to be a top chef you had to be a leader in the kitchen. This year they say that one week, and then the next say it is all about the food. Consistency would be nice.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: phneale

                      Not true, the eliminations have always been based solely on that episode's elimination challenge. Come in last in the elimination challenge and it doesn't matter how well you did up to that point.

                      Leadership is only an issue when they're working as teams.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        And many of the elimination challenges have been teams have been used. It gives them room to move.


                    2. With any reality game show, you have to take into consideration that the producers have the final call, not the judges. Even if they say that's not how it goes, they have that prerogative. I just look at it as a fun show, not a real and fair competition.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: krez

                        No, the producers do NOT have final say. Tom Colicchio has reiterated this over and over again. The producers can talk with the judges about their decision - and yes, they did overturn the "Get rid of everyone and give Marcel the Top Chef win" after the attempted head-shaving incident last season. But I believe they *only* step in when it's a drastic situation such as that one - as well as one that would end the season 4-5 episodes early. Otherwise, the judges make the final decision.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Okay lets accept this point as fact despite the disclaimer in the credits.( and some very debateable decisions) Perhaps the producers don't have the final say but I do see them telling the judges, after the elimination challenges, to chose between contestant A and contestant B and or contestant C.

                          I still think thats why they have the team eliminations gives them more choices to pick from.


                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Right. Becaue Tom Colicchio is a Saint and would never say anything misleading or deceiving.

                            Lets be honest - there is no way, short of hooking up a polygraph, that anyone can determine that Colicchio is giving the whole story.

                            I, for one, think that there are certain people that they keep around for different reasons: Howie for the entertainment/instigator role, Casey for the sex appeal quotient, Sara M. for the oh-my-God-what-will-she-put-on-a-plate-next factor, etc. And let's not forget that we only see what TELEVISION wants us to see - no two ways about it. Ratings are gold and are worth more than some contest to the good folks at Bravo. I can say that with faith being plugged into the Las Vegas culinary scene and knowing what I do about some of the contestants from last season.

                            FWIW - I also think that Lia was one of the most talented there. Too bad she's gone. I don't think she would've come up the winner but she would've definitely been in the running.

                            1. re: azbirdiemaker

                              The ONLY fact we have is that none of us has tasted anything on any of the shows. While a contestant may look as though he/she is talented, there's no way of telling unless we can actually taste the food. Perhaps Howie's food has been excellent enough on occasion to keep him around, and perhaps Lia's food was underwhelming in its entirety. We just don't know.

                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                  Here it's 12:26. I raise my glass of cheap wine in your direction!

                                2. re: mojoeater

                                  They don't make decisions based on overall performance. If they had, Tiffani would have been eliminated instead of Dave.

                                  Lia lost because she came in last in the elimination challenge:

                                  "... was absolutely heartbroken to send [Lia] home this early in the competition. Sadly, her Smoked Rainbow Trout with Poblano Charred Corn Polenta Cake gave us no choice. It was mushy and void of much texture, under seasoned and most importantly, did not embody the essence of Latin American food."


                                3. re: azbirdiemaker

                                  I never said Colicchio was a saint. However, I do think he wouldn't want his reputation sullied in any way if he swore up and down in blogs and in interviews that the judges have the final say, and it was later revealed by a former production person that he lied through and through and the producers picked the person to leave each week. Why wouldn't he tell the truth? If he doesn't tell the truth on the show, how would we know that the food he serves at his restaurants is truly organically grown, prime beef, or whatever he's claiming it to be? You've got to go with a little trust here.

                                  Yes, it's a "reality show" and yes, it's television. Editors rule on these shows, showing us a lot of the drama and none of the boring stuff. I "get it" that each cheftestant has a "character role" to fulfill. My father and brother were/are in the film business. I know about film's smoke and mirrors. However, I guess I still go back to the belief that Colicchio is telling the truth because he has no reason not to. Yes the producers have a say in that they discuss it with judges, but the judges make the final decision.

                                  Am I being naive in my overall view? Perhaps. But it makes the show more pleasant for me to watch. If I thought they (the judges) were all lying and the final outcome was already chosen, why the hell would I then want to watch?

                                  I agree Lia, based on her resume, was one of the more talented ones; however, her dish on the week she was booted out was obviously the worst one.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    I actually haven't found any of the judges elimination decision monumentally unfair so far this season and feel like they are really trying to make the right call each time. I haven't always agreed with them necessarily (I would've kicked Sara off instead of Joey) but usually can see their logic. I think it is fine Lia was kicked off early, her dish looked genuinely unappetizing and despite her resume, nothing she made on the show looked that impressive (her picnic or BBQ entree was also quite awful). I think it was also appropriate that they redid the challenge this week as there was no clear winner or loser (and they were keeping in mind past challenges, otherwise they would've just sent Tre home.) Howie has also won or nearly won a few times, so he deserves to stay there for now although I think his one-trick act and his ultra stubborn personality will do him in soon.

                                    The only truly bad decision the judges have made in the past that still seems wrong was to eliminate Sam. He still seemed clearly more talented than Ilan (who just played the game really well executing Casa Mono dishes but had no originality) or even rappin' Marcel.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      Interestingly TV networks are no longer calling it Reality TV...now in their planning and strategy sessions it's "Unscripted Programming" which I find hysterical, but more accurate as there's often no reality left after the editing is done.

                                    2. re: azbirdiemaker

                                      I don't buy it - Camille was much hotter than Casey, and she probably could cut up a damn onion
                                      so it's not like they're keeping around the best looking women

                                    3. re: LindaWhit

                                      Top Chef shares a network and production company with Project Runway, and Tim Gunn and friends have always said that the only time the producers would step in on that show was if the judges couldn't resolve a tie during voting.

                                      So I believe Tom when he says the only producer intererence was over the Marcel incident.

                                      1. re: beachmouse

                                        Even if that's true - the judges know what makes ratings.

                                  2. I just want to remind everyone that since we can't actually taste the food, we have no real basis to question the decisions. Why are Sarah M and Howie still around? Because every time they prepared a bad dish, someone else prepared a dish that was worse.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                      It's not *just* about the food though. Being a head chef takes something more - delegation and communication, right? I've never seen Howie communicate to anyone during the competitions, until the judges table. He's a loner chef - there's no way he could take charge of a kitchen like that. I really think they keep him in because he is an instigator.

                                    2. Now Tre is gone, who is going to win this show now?? I don't see any just talent in who is left.

                                      1. COCKTAIL,

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: CHEFBUCK

                                          Chef Buck,

                                          FYI - writing in all caps is the equivalent of yelling on an on-line board. Many people consider it to be rude or off putting, though I'm sure that isn'y your intention.

                                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                            Sorry everyone,
                                            This is my first on-line board and was not aware of your rules. Next time I have caps it will be yelling. GO HOWIE!

                                            1. re: CHEFBUCK

                                              Thanks ChefBuck - it's also harder to read when in all caps, so I'm sure everyone appreciates the change!

                                        2. If Howie were a great chef, he would not let sweat drip into the food. I'm surprised he wasn't eliminated just for that. Eew.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Italian Woman

                                            He doesnt need to add salt now. That is gross, though. Happens more than you think.

                                            1. re: CHEFBUCK

                                              It should be like episode one, season one, where the Irish guy got booted from the kitchen for tasting with his fingers in Keller's kitchen . . .
                                              : )

                                              thanks for taking the CAPS feedback, CHEFBUCK

                                          2. From the third elimination (of Micah,) I thought they were totally off the ball with their eliminations this season. I definitely thought Micah would have gone further, along with Lia, and Joey, and of course...Tre! Can't make everyone happy I guess. The only one left now that I think is worthy of any title is Hung.